Gophers drop 2 of 3 in rainy weekend

Samuel Gordon

 

Minnesota’s baseball team opened its season with a trio of games against Big East competition as it played in the Big Ten/Big East Challenge in Clearwater, Fla.

Rainy weather affected scheduling and game locations and played its role in the Gophers dropping two of three contests against East Coast foes.

Minnesota picked up its first win of the season in a Friday affair against Louisville.

The Gophers, keyed by ace TJ Oakes and timely hitting, beat the Cardinals 7-1 in the first leg of the doubleheader.

Oakes was impressive in 5.2 innings. The junior righthander allowed just one unearned run on six hits.

“He’s experienced, he has great composure and he showed up again on Friday,” head coach John Anderson said. “He kept us in the game. He kept making pitches. … He’s one of the leaders; he helped settle us down.”

Kurt Schlangen’s tiebreaking RBI double in the bottom of the fifth inning scored the first of six unanswered runs for Minnesota.

DJ Snelten tossed 2.1 innings of scoreless relief, and the Gophers coasted the rest of the way as the game was called for rain in the top half of the ninth.

Anderson said Snelten’s performance in relief of Oakes was the best he had given in a Minnesota uniform.

The Gophers fell to St. John’s 6-1 on Saturday. Minnesota mustered just four hits against the Red Storm. St. John’s starter Sean Hagen struck out five and walked just one in six shutout innings.

“I thought we struck out too much. I thought we didn’t make any adjustments,” Anderson said. “We didn’t have a great game offensively, but you’ve got to give credit to their pitching. They pitched pretty well.”

Tom Windle, who was 6-2 with a 1.52 ERA last season while working mainly from the bullpen, allowed two earned runs in 4.2 innings in his first start of the season.

Windle issued back-to-back walks to open the second inning. A sacrifice bunt moved the runners over and right fielder Kevin Grove’s RBI groundout put St. John’s up 1-0.

The lead doubled in the bottom of the fifth on Pat Talbut’s RBI double, and St. John’s busted it open in the bottom of the sixth by scoring four runs off Minnesota freshman Ben Meyer. The Gophers scored their lone run in the top of the ninth on Tony Skjefte’s RBI double.

Minnesota fell again to South Florida on Sunday 4-3 in a game that was shortened to seven innings because of time constraints.

“It’s unfortunate that we had to quit the game. It would have been fun to see how it finished,” Anderson said. “Having to leave the field and seeing the look on the kids’ faces, their disappointment, it was difficult.”

The Bulls raced out to an early 2-0 lead on a two-run double by James Ramsay. USF added another run in the second on Daniel Rockhold’s RBI single.

Minnesota responded in the top of the third. Bulls starter Andrew Barbosa opened the inning with consecutive walks to Troy Larson and Michael Handel.

Both runners advanced on a wild pitch, and Schlangen knocked in Larsen with a single. Andy Henkemeyer plated Handel with a single, and a botched double-play attempt allowed Schlangen to score and tie the game at 3-3.

But Blake Sydeski put the Bulls up 4-3 in the bottom of the third with an RBI single, and that score held for the remainder of the game.

The Gophers will not play another game away from home until April 6.

“All [weather concerns and variables] are eliminated by the dome,” Anderson said.

“We need to get into the Metrodome and get into a routine. … I think we’re all looking forward to getting into a routine.”